As Congress and communities across the country continue to debate how to deal with the arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children at the southern border, the latest statistics show that the overwhelming majority of them have already been released to relatives and sponsors.
President Obama was scheduled to meet Friday with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren to discuss how to curb the surge of unaccompanied children, more than 57,000 of whom have arrived in the U.S. since October.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, 30,340 children have been released to relatives and sponsors from Jan. 1 to July 7. Health and Human Services has overall responsibility for the children after they leave the custody of Customs and Border Protection.
Not surprisingly, the children are finding sanctuary in areas with significant Central American communities.
The statistics show that more children were released in Texas than in any other state: 4,280. Next was New York, with 3,347; Florida, with 3,181; and California, with 3,150. Maryland and Virginia have each received more than 2,200 of the children.
These children are usually given notices to appear before immigration officials to begin the process of adjudicating their claims to stay in the United States. There have been reports that the process can take more than 18 months, though the administration is seeking to accelerate it.
In addition to placing the children who have been released, officials are seeking shelters and accommodations for thousands of children for whom relatives or sponsors cannot be found. The latest battle over those children has been in Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick has offered the federal government temporary space for up to 1,000 children, but local officials and residents are protesting the plan.
The children's arrival has set off debates and demonstrations in many states, including California, over how to pay for shelters, food and education. The Obama administration is seeking a $3.7-billion package to deal with what the president has labeled a humanitarian crisis.
But the proposal has stalled in both houses of Congress, which is due to break for its annual summer recess next week. Follow @latimesmuskal for national news.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times